During our first day in Kinosaki Onsen, we familiarized ourselves with our traditional lodgings. On the second day, we finally got to enjoy this thermal town’s specialty : the onsen (or warm hot spring baths).
From one onsen to the next
There are a total of seven onsen in Kinosaki : during a stay like ours, the idea is to spend a day trying them all out (we tried 6 out the 7, the last one was closed for repairs).
Generally, if you book a room in one of the city’s ryokan (any which one), the price includes an onsen pass (but it seems you can also buy the tickets separately).
Our pass in hand, we enjoyed making our way from one onsen to the next, wearing the yukatas lent by our ryokan (now you can finally see which one I chose!) and with a little wicker basket with the essentials (towel, a couple yens, the room key…).
We walked through the whole city wearing our getas (wooden sandals), and collected the 7 Onsen stamps!
You’ll generally find stamps at the entrance of every japanese monument, so you can say “I was there!”. I love the concept: it’s an even greater motivation for visits!
Onsen best practices
As I said before, it was my first experience in an onsen, and I hadn’t read up on the subject beforehand. I only had vague knowledge through Ranma 1/2 (where you see them constantly throwing water at each other in wooden buckets, you see what I mean!).
I also knew that you can’t go if you’re tatooed (I’m a tatoo-virgin, thankfully!). Indeed, in Japan, the yakuza (japanese mafia) are often heavily tatooed, which explains this exclusion criteria.
Hard to believe that you’re part of the gang if you have a rainbow dolphin tatoo with an “I love you mommy♥” inscription, but I’d rather warn you that you might not make it in.
Try to cover it up if it’s small. For the rest, I don’t know how strict they are with letting people in. Try a “puss in boots”- worthy face, you never know.
MEN ON ONE SIDE , WOMEN ON THE OTHER
The Kinosaki public baths are separate for men and women, which means you need to say goodbye to your other half and each enjoys the experience on his or her own (except if your other half is the same gender you are, in which case you can enjoy the experience together, lucky you!).
Although my SO wasn’t with me, I fully enjoyed myself, alone in those boiling baths, not knowing anyone.
NAKED OUTFIT REQUIRED
A warning for the modest : you make your way to the bath fully naked (no swimsuit required), with a tiny towel.
I’ll admit I wasn’t too bothered by that, as A. I didn’t know anyone and B. with my origins, I easily blended in.
I didn’t get any curious looks from anyone, and for my part, didn’t go around looking for any flaws in the ladies – young and old – that passed me by. If you are a tall blonde with a full figure, you might get more looks, but surely not to the point where you’d be uncomfortable, as the atmosphere is extremely respectful.
Traditionally in Japan, you’ll go to Onsen with friends or work colleagues : I’m not sure in that case I’d be willing to go! Imagine talking about the company’s yearly profit with your boss, both of you fully naked; or a “blogger event” in an Onsen (sponsored by a shower gel or a cotton towel brand)….Ha Ha! I’ll let you imagine the rest.
– leave all your clothes in a basket and put said basket in a locker
– keep the locker key around you wrist
– take your mini towel
– feel a bit sheepish, being totally naked around other girls who are getting dressed or drying their hair
– get to the bathing zone
– wash yourself entirely, sitting down on a wooden stool (Ranma 1/2 I’m telling you!)
– don’t get your mini towel wet
– eventually you can store it on your head
– access the hot bath
– dig the moment
– Remember you said you would meet up with your SO “in 20 minutes”
– leave the bath
– pat yourself dry with your mini towel
– get dressed in front of your locker
– feel a bit sheepish putting your panties on around other girls who are getting dressed or drying their hair
– exit the building
– talk with your SO to know what he/she thought of the whole experience (so? so? do the guys do a lot of comparing? hehe!).
Of course, no pictures allowed inside the onsen (forget the “blogger event”), those you see here are the few I took in the private pool of our ryokan (woo woo I’m naked!) and in of it’s public pools when it was empty. It’ll give you an idea of the atmosphere. .
7 ONSEN 7 ATMOSPHERES
Each onsen has it’s own specificities: outside, surrounded by boulders and rocks, on a rooftop.
My favorite were the Satanoyu (next to the Kinosaki station), with an asian decor (hammam and a frigidarium, to alternate) and it’s bath on the last floor and outdoors, and the Kounoyu in the middle of the rocks and boulders.
Again a note for the modest ones: know there are great places to dip your feet in the warm thermal water all around the city. Pretty nice when it’s cold out!
Climbing Mount Daishi
If you didn’t make it inside the onsen (you yakuza!), there’s another option available : discovering Mount Daishi (by cable car or by foot).
As we were wearing our gettas, we opted for the cable car. Right by the station, we stopped to try the local specialty: Onsen tamago, eggs that you boil yourself in the onsen thermal water.
The taste is exactly the same as if you had boiled your egg in a small pot at home, but there’s the satisfaction of being able to say I DID IT.
We were lucky with the weather that day, and the walk at the top of the mountain was one of the most enjoyable of our trip.
Breathtaking view, perfect communion with nature, pretty temples and a snack stop with delicious dangos (mochis skewers) and another “parfait”.
Dango to grill by ourselves
Matcha “Parfait” (again !) at the top of Mount Daishi
Our two day stay in Kinosaki Onsen has come to an end. I hope you’re still enjoying the trip. We’re off to new horizons, with lots of deers and grilled oysters. See you soon! (English translation by Marine)